X-Men: Days Of Future Past (2014) – Review

Directed by Bryan Singer
Written by Simon Kinberg
Starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Evan Peters, Ellen Page, Michael Fassbender, Peter Dinklage, Nicholas Hoult


If you’re a regular reader of this blog, or even if you ever been unexpectedly collared by me, back to a corner, in conversation about superheroes, you’ll already know my opinion on their cinematicvalue. From a financial aspect, for the purposes of generating revenue, they are an inarguable godsend. What they (normally) lack in artistic creativity and originality is usually made up for by their massive box office gross.

There are exceptions, of course, to this rule. Most recent Batman and Iron Man (technically not even superheroes, possessing no actual superpowers) releases have been greeted with both audience and critical acclaim and also enjoyed very profitable stints at your local multiplex and beyond.
Often falling somewhere in between sage appreciation and stifled finger-pointing accusation, the X-Men franchise has been something of a mixed bag since those first days at Xavier’s school for the young and gifted. It started very brightly with a formidable, reliable cast of stars, then hopped around, sometimes uncomfortably, with sequels and offshoots before wondering just where to go next. At this point,’ the new batch’ appeared and as Stewart and McKellen took a step back, McAvoy and Fassbender strode confidently out of the shadows. A staple throughout of course is Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, and with good reason, being probably the biggest audience draw out of two admittedly excellent casts.
And here, as you would realistically have guessed would happen sooner or later, director Bryan Singer manages to gather both casts together here in what must have been a logistical nightmare of conflicting scheduling for all of those appearing. If you stop and think about it, this is a monumental cast list at work here, employing some of the biggest stars on the planet.
Timing-wise, it may well have been tricky to assemble this group of actors, but given the storyline for this latest eye-blistering mutant romp, it was absolutely necessary. Days of Future Past may initially seem befuddling if for no other reason than its nonsensical title, but when you take your seat, Singer has ensured that those less endowed with patience or an in-depth understanding of quantum mechanics are not left out by a script that is not exposition heavy, but holds the hand of the viewer in just the right places so as not confuse and subsequently bore his audience.
Two generations of X-Men (well, the same generation, parted by fifty years of time and events) work together here to ensure that the mutant line continues in spite of some new and seemingly unstoppable threats borne from the inventive mind of the deliciously named Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) who has procured Mystique’s DNA strands to create what he has proudly dubbed his ‘Sentinels’. (think of a non-metallic  cross between a Terminator and GORT from’ The Day The Earth Stood Still’, and you’re getting pretty close).
The Sentinels are, in the future, tasked with the job of getting rid of mutants altogether and are doing such a good job of it, that Professor Xavier hatches a plan to send Wolverine back to the past (in his head at least) to convince the McAvoy’s incarnation of Xavier to step in and help save them all. A tricky enough proposition on its own, but this becomes doubly difficult when it transpires that Fassbender’s Magneto needs to help out too. Given that Xavier and Magneto are at odds in the past plus he is imprisoned inside The Pentagon, it seems that the time-travelling Wolverine is going to need some help. And help he duly gets, not least, from Ellen Page’s Kitty Pryde and Evan Peters’ Quicksilver. With the addition of these two characters, without whom this would simply not have worked, this enables Wolverine to travel back to enlist the help of the young X-Men, opening up a whole host of opportunities for time-travelling shenanigans, which often raise the odd wry chuckle, demonstrating  Singer’s ear for a joke when it presents itself.
As you would expect, we’re firmly entrenched in blockbuster territory here and anyone expecting anything else (why would you?) is going to be slightly disappointed by what may be accused of dumbing down for the sake of the mighty dollar. Singer’s films, as a rule, are not as guilty of this as some others (cough, Michael Bay, cough) but this is still definitely more high-kicking bells and whistles than considered moral posturing about the nature of things and any notion approaching cohesive and considered argument on the subject of potential extinction.
If the cast don’t know what they are doing by now with these characters, then they really shouldn’t be in the film in the first place and thankfully, the performances are never anything less than you might expect. The addition of a mostly overlooked Kitty Pryde was necessary for the plot, but Ellen Page had little to do, all told. Quicksilver’s introduction was much more interesting and his habit of flitting about a scene gave Singer the opportunity for some playful moments with him. Evan Peters clearly had a great deal of fun with the character, playing him fast and loose but ultimately draped in a greying head of confident, ambivalent cool.
Ultimately, this is what it is and you should know that prior to entering. It’s not high-brow or remotely demanding of its audience, which in this case is thankfully a good thing. Approaching the heights of the original X-Men film, this could quite easily be seen as a next best successor to the first movie which is giving it high praise indeed. Brash, bold, fun and unapologetic. Expect to be dazzled, just not tested.

 

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